It was a momentous occasion, in spite of a cold drizzle at King Central Park Saturday morning as 36 graduates from Stokes Early College received their anticipated high school diploma.
“This is an amazing group of kids,” said Principal Misti Holloway. “This is a very funny class and they have a great sense of humor.”
The graduates voted on a motto which stirred a few chuckles from the audience of family and friends.
To be old and wise, we must first be young and stupid.
Along with a penchant for wit, the Class of 2017 has been focused on education. The graduates earned almost 3.7 million dollars in scholarship offerings.
“Several of our students have earned full academic scholarships, others have received enough money to pay for both a bachelor and a master’s degree,” Hollaway said. “Just think if you had found a way to pay for college without any debt at 18, what could you accomplish at 25 or 30 or even 50?”
The principal praised the graduates for their humility and hard work and said the four-year journey hadn’t always been easy.
“We have several graduates who have experienced the loss of a parent or other loved ones during their time here,” she said. “Many have the added responsibility of being breadwinners for their families, working 40 hours a week to help put food on the table and pay bills. Your accomplishments are impressive.”
Holloway reminded each young adult they were created with special gifts and natural talents.
“Use them to make a positive mark on this world. You have so many people here rooting for you and cheering you on. We are so proud of you.”
Assistant Superintendent Tony George challenged the graduates to live, love, laugh and pray.
“Those four things I try to do every day,” he said. “Live every day like it could be your last. The reason I say love is because without love we don’t have anything. Always find a time during the day to laugh and enjoy yourself and be yourself. Pray. Always thank God for everything you get, everything you achieve and everything you receive.”
Students Wendy Smith and Elizabeth Sykes introduced guest speaker and Stokes Early College faculty member Mike Shaw.
Shaw charged the Class of 2017 to be lifelong learners, a lesson he acquired from his grandmother.
“Always learn as much as you can for as long as you can because that’s something no one can ever take away from you,” he said.
He also issued a challenge.
“I would like you to consider the following as you go through life. Please choose giving over greed. Involvement over indifference. Enlightenment over ignorance and love over hate.”
He added, before receiving a standing ovation from his students, “I appreciate you. I admire you. I applaud all of your hard work and congratulate you on how far you have already come in your young life. I respect you. I believe in you and most of all, I love you. Go with the grace of God and do great things.”
Valedictorian Lauren Ogden, who is set to attend Appalachian State University this fall, thanked her teachers for their investment over the past four years.
“You have given us a gift. The gift of knowledge, of curiosity and more. These gifts cannot be taught like a formula, nor gleaned from text in classes, but can only be instilled and for that we are all grateful,” she said.
Ogden encouraged her graduating class to speak with clarity and kindness.
“Words matter. They’re an expression of self, of who you are, of what you stand for. Don’t doubt your importance in the world. For your actions and words have helped someone whether you know it or not. Don’t doubt how easily you can make a difference.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.